Refresh Planning Cycle


There are four areas associated with Refresh Planning, these are:

  1. Update (above in the illustration they called it "Refreshing the Schedule")

    • Send Pre-Fresh Look-Ahead-Report (LAR) day before

      • task owners should come to the refresh meeting with their own completed LARs

    • Send Post-Fresh LAR day of, after all updates

      • send to task owners to be used as their guide to the tasks they should focus on in the coming week (in progress and not started based on the schedule)

  2. Analysis

    • With a small sub-group, review the critical paths and determine what has changed in the project and what caused the change:

      • What does it tell us?

      • What actions should be taken?

      • What can we see in future that is a problem?

      • How can we accelerate it?

    • The point of this meeting is to prepare for the core team Pull-in Meeting (above called Pull-in Schedule) in which the core team is engaged in finding solutions to accelerate the project. The analysis meeting should generate the points to be discussed with the wider team.

  3. Pull-in

    • As a full team, explore critical paths to near term targets to discover pull-in opportunities.

    • Requires peeling back multiple critical paths, but the focus is usually of the top three critical paths driving the schedule.

    • Actions are assigned to pull-in the schedule or decisions are made on the spot to affect a pull-in on the schedule if no additional help or decision is required outside of the core team.

  4. Report

    • Generate a fast summary of the state of the project; which way it is trending (away or towards the target date).

    • Define the top three driving critical paths and any actions by team members needed to close on pull-in actions.

    • Try to make this a fast process, don't filter or manipulate the data (i.e. modified for executive consumption), just show it as it is - the "raw stuff." Using live unfiltered data requires less time to prepare. Most executive reporting is so filtered and distorted that it is hard to really know what is going on. It is the reason why many executives have a cynical view of project status reporting.

    • Should not take longer than 30 minutes to generate this weekly report of less than 7 slides. Fewer slides are better. And graphics are better than words.

    • Distribute report to the team and project stakeholders.

More detail...

1. Update; is more of a mechanical process. You need to get people to attend on-time and come prepared or send their completed LAR if they can't attend, but this should be the exception not the rule. Meeting discipline needs to be reinforced by top management. If senior managers attends, then it will send a message that these meetings are important. You also need to do a full project update at the end of the day if you are updating in separate groups to make sure all tasks that could be updated, have been updated. It can take 3 months to get this meeting working effectively (i.e. people on time, all attending, all prepared, all focused, and minimal chit-chat).

2. Analysis; this means looking at the various critical paths (peels) and determining the root causes of slips or pull-ins. This also involves determining what actions are needed to cause schedule pull-ins. These are all recurrent meetings and should be on key people's calendars. They are not optional and must be attended on time. Analysis is best done with the program manager and a few (1-2) key technical leaders on the project. Adding senior leadership (1) is also a good idea, so that they see more than presentations and can see the "sausage being made." Many leaders find that this is their most valuable meeting to find out what is really going on in the project.

3. Pull-in; means running a core team meeting to review the analysis you did on step 2... walking the team through the logic around what is driving the project and to confirm actions to accelerate the schedule. Any changes to the schedule can be made at this time and will come up in the next week’s refresh cycle.

4. Report; means creating a short summary status report of the progress of the project. This should contain live data and not require the creation of new or filtered / interpreted information. Use the schedule data and describe what has changed week-to-week, causes of slips or pull-ins, and to identify future problems and/or risks.

One way to shorten this cycle so it does not take three days might be to have the China team provide all their updates by email (completed LAR) sent to the program manager on Tuesday night. Since they will be updating to the end of Tuesday night (as it will be Wednesday for them when they send the completed LAR). Then do the 9:30 AM Refresh, conduct the analysis meeting immediately after, then run the Pull-in Meeting with the full team (China included) in the evening. The program manager could do the Status Report on Thursday mornings for distribution after. This could get it all done in a day basically.

Every team needs to find their own rhythm and system that works best for them. But the process MUST happen every week, like the sun coming up rain or shine these meetings have to happen as scheduled in order for the process to work. It is the rhythm of the process that actually makes it work and the routine of having to report your progress to your team members every week (good or bad news).